India celebrates Republic Day every January 26. This day marks the day when India’s constitution came into effect in 1950 after attaining freedom from British rule in 1947. On this occasion let us look into some of the women who fought for India’s freedom or were active participants or contributors in the freedom movement.
1. Rani Lakshmibai
The queen of the Maratha Empire, Rani Lakshmi Bhai or the Rani of Jhansi was one of the first freedom fighters of India. She led a battle against British rule with a small army for seven days. She valiantly died in the battle fighting against the British in 1858.
2. Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini Naidu was an independence activist and a poet. She was a prominent figure in India’s struggle for independence from British rule. Naidu’s work as a poet earned her the nickname ‘the Nightingale of India’ by Mahatma Gandhi.
She was the first woman who became a governor of a province and of a state in independent India. In 1925, She was appointed as the first female president of the Indian National Congress. She established the Women’s Indian Association and was involved in women’s welfare and empowerment.
3. Kasturba Gandhi
Kasturba Gandhi, the wife of Gandhiji, took an active role in politics and the independence of India. She started her path as a fighter while she and Gandhi were in South Africa. She fought for the unfair treatment of Indian Immigrants in South Africa. Later she was an active participant in India’s freedom movement despite her health issues. She often took the position of her husband when Gandhiji was in prison. She taught Indians the value of basic hygiene and reading and writing.
4. Kamala Nehru
Kamala Nehru, the wife of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was an active participant in the freedom movement. She served an important role in the non cooperation movement of 1921. During this, she picketed foreign cloth and liquor stores.
5. Capt Lakshmi Sehgal
Lakshmi Sahgal was an active participant in the Indian independence movement. She was a prominent part in building the first all-women regiment of Netaji Subhash Chandra Boss’s Indian National Army. She also commanded it. She helped in treating the prisoners of war and soldiers who got wounded during combat. She was the Minister of Women’s Affairs in Independent India. In 1998, she was awarded Padma Vibhushan by the India Government. She passed away in 2012.
6. Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum Hazrat Mahal, also known as the Begum of Awadh, was the second wife of Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. She played a leading role in the rebellion against the British East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
7. Uda Devi
Uda Devi is remembered for her fight against the British in the rebellion of 1857 in Lucknow. The story is that she approached Begum Hazrat Mahal to seek help in preparing against the British. She led one of the most ferocious battles against the British, killing over 30 soldiers. Uda Devi along with her Dalit participants are remembered today as “Dalit Veeranganas” of the 1857 Indian Rebellion.
8. Matangini Hazra
Matangini Hazra, known as Gandhi Buri, was a freedom fighter who fought against British rule and was arrested and kept in prison a few times. During the Quit India movement, she led a procession of six thousand people. She was shot dead by the police in 1942. At the face of death, she held the Indian flag high and chanted ‘Vande Mataram’.
9. Aruna Asaf Ali
She was a revolutionary and a prime member of the Indian National Congress. She participated in the Quit India Movement and the Salt Satyagraha. She was arrested and kept in prison by the British. Inside the prison, she organized protests against the treatment meted out to prisoners which resulted positively for the prisoners and it improved their living conditions inside the prison.
10. Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay
Kamaladevi was a dedicated freedom fighter and a social reformer. She was the first lady who was arrested by the British for her active role in politics. She participated in the Salt Satyagraha. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1926 and was the first woman to have run for legislative assembly in India. She worked relentlessly for the improvement of the conditions of Indian women. She was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1955 and Padma Vibhushan in 1987.
11. Vijayalakshmi Pandit
Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, is known for her diplomatic role in Indian politics. She was the first woman to be appointed as a cabinet minister for public health. She was the first woman to hold the post of president of the United Nations General Assembly. She was the first woman ambassador in the world. She was ambassador to Moscow, London and Washington.
12. Annie Besant
Annie Besant was a British socialist but an active fighter for self-rule for India. She was president of the Theosophical Society. She helped in establishing Hindu colleges. She was a co-founder of the All India Home Rule League. She became president of the Indian National Congress in 1917.
- Written By Poorna Krishnan
Poorna is from Trivandrum, Kerala, and likes to write novels and poems. She is a graduate of ‘The Film and Television Institute of India’, Pune.